04 May Consumer Trends 2022: Sustainability
The Sustainable Consumer
Mintel reports on consumer trends in early 2022 have discovered a growing demand for products that are sustainably made, as well as stronger expectations for brands to take responsibility for their environmental impact. This reflects the increasing strength of environmental concerns in the 21st century, as climate change becomes a pressing issue in society. This is being absorbed into consumer attitudes, as research shows consumers are leaning towards sustainable choices more than before. A move towards sustainable production, and the promotion of this, will be beneficial for brands as consumers favour those that are more environmentally-conscious.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought these issues to the forefront of many consumers minds as lockdowns reduced pollution and emissions. This made the impact of our lifestyles more visible and increased concern about environmental issues. As a result, since the start of the pandemic consumers are seeking to make more sustainable lifestyle choices, something that is also being reflected in their buying habits.
Climate change and plastic pollution
Climate change and plastic pollution have been identified as the two primary concerns for consumers, which is something that brands should be aware of both in their operations and their marketing activities. Without being deceptive, of course, you can respond to consumer trends by having a more central focus on your efforts to reduce your environmental impact. Making this a clear core value of your brand will resonate with consumers, as increasingly they are demanding that businesses do more to take responsibility for the role they play in environmental issues and sustainability; in a 2022 report, 71% of consumers agreed that the planet cannot be saved without action from businesses. Whilst the majority of consumer attention tends to be focused on big brands and corporations, with a smaller brand it is still important to do your part – and this will likely reward you by creating positive relationships with your consumers. Of course, you should make sure you also choose realistic goals that you can stick to, rather than huge, bold ambitions that are little more than empty promises. You will achieve more by being able to prove that you are making concentrated efforts to take responsibility, something that you can include in your marketing campaigns.
Some tech companies, for example, are moving towards more environmentally-friendly means of production, such as Apple planning to be carbon neutral by 2030. The use of recycled materials can alleviate the pressure on the environment placed by extraction, and reduce your environmental impact. Many companies within the FMCG sector are also already responding to shifts in consumer attitudes, with an increased number of product launches carrying environmental claims. This is the case not only in the actual product, such as packaging and vegan-friendly products, but also with increased emphasis on the carbon footprint of brands. In response to consumers looking to reduce their emissions, brands have brought this into their organisational values. Sustainable production takes on increased importance if your brand is marketing towards Gen Z as your target audience, with this generation being particularly inclined to spend more on products that are sustainably made.
To go further than one-off actions and sporadic campaigns, we believe that you should establish sustainability as a cornerstone of your brand philosophy. This involves viewing sustainability as not only a brand value, but as a core part of your mission, vision and legacy – the three elements that make up a complete purpose statement. Doing so will enable you to make repeated, focused efforts to do your bit in reducing the harmful impact that you have on the earth. It is also not just about your external activities: absorbing these responsibilities can also influence your internal culture, from the cars that you drive to the energy you use and even who you use to host your website. Reducing your environmental impact involves a comprehensive rethinking of behaviour, but the more you do, the greater the reward. Given the current issues facing society, we feel that it is very important – even essential – to make these changes.
The additional benefit of a genuine and proactive approach is that you will be more likely to attract talented, mindful people to your organisation, as well as encouraging the best people to stay with you. People often want to work for a brand that they can be proud to represent, and you can stand out by being at the forefront of environmentally-ethical behaviour.
It is important to note the ethical considerations of promoting sustainability. Any claims you make have to reflect a genuine commitment to improving the environmental impact of your products or services. Consumers also have greater access now to information, which means that it is more difficult anyway to falsely claim that you are sustainable when you are not: brands and corporations have experienced consumer backlash for ‘greenwashing’, where marketing activities deceptively present products as being environmentally-friendly when it is nothing more than a clever spin of information.
As far as corporate responsibility is concerned, it is not only the natural world that requires attention. Human rights and civil liberties are repeatedly under threat, and this is another area where you can use your brand to generate awareness and initiate positive action to help find solutions for these issues. Look out for an upcoming blog on this, as we look more closely about what actions you can take.